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13.1.10

Thousands feared dead as earthquake measuring 7.0 devastates Haiti

Thousands of people are feared dead in Haiti after a massive 7.0 earthquake devastated one of the world’s poorest countries yesterday.
Bloodstained bodies lay strewn in the street of the capital, Port-au-Prince, as the full horror of the disaster began to emerge in the early hours today.
Eyewitnesses said gravely injured Haitians were crying out from the rubble, pleading for doctors as night fell. With the country in chaos and facing still more damage from a series of aftershocks, their cries went mostly unheard.

A section of the Haiti National Palace was destroyed in the massive earthquake
A section of the Haiti National Palace was destroyed in the massive earthquake

Standing proud: The palace before the earthquake
Standing proud: The palace before the earthquake

One hotel collapse in Port-au-Prince is feared to have claimed the lives of more than 200 people.

The destruction is said to be staggering, even in an impoverished nation accustomed to tragedy and disaster. The National Palace is in ruins, a major hospital crumbled and tens of thousands of people homeless.
The headquarters of the United Nations peacekeeping mission also collapsed and a large number of staff in the five-storey building are believed to have been killed.
Up to 250 people normally work at the UN headquarters and none had been rescued by late last night. It was unclear how many people were in their offices when the earthquake hit.
With communications disrupted, it may be days before the full death toll is known. The pictures tell a harrowing story, some of the first to emerge appeared on the Twitter networking site.


A woman receives assistance in a collapsed bulding in Port-au-Prince
A woman receives assistance in a collapsed building in Port-au-Prince

Haiti residents work quickly to carry an injured person from rubble after a major earthquake measuring at least 7.3 on the Richter Scale hit the poor Caribbean nation
Haitians carry an injured person from the rubble after a major earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale hit the poor Caribbean nation

But Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Port-au-Prince, told American colleagues that ‘there must be thousands of people dead. 
The UK Government said it was 'deeply concerned' about the reported scale of the earthquake and was sending a team from the Department for International Development (DFID) to assess the humanitarian needs.
A DFID spokesman said: 'We are deeply concerned at the reported scale of the earthquake which has struck Haiti. It appears to have been severe, causing considerable damage and harm.
'We do not yet have a clear picture of needs from the Haitian authorities or from humanitarian agencies. We are monitoring the situation closely.

The earthquake caused widespread destruction including the collapse of major roads
The earthquake caused widespread destruction including the collapse of major roads

'Overnight we have mobilised a DFID humanitarian assessment team to fly to Haiti today. We stand ready to provide whatever humanitarian assistance may be required.'
The quake, the most powerful in the region for 200 years, was centred about ten miles west of the Haitian capital, a city of two million people, many of them living in flimsy shanty slums.
It struck at 4.53pm yesterday and was followed by as many as thirteen aftershocks, one of them as strong as 5.9 on the Richter scale, a sizeable earthquake in its own right.
The centre was also relatively shallow, less than ten miles below ground, raising the risk of damage.
Survivors held hands and sung hymns as they waited for help to come. But many people spent the night fighting for their lives.

Panic-stricken Haitians flee as buildings topple around them
Panic-stricken Haitians flee as buildings topple around them

A house begins to crumble in the earthquake which has also destroyed government buildings in the capital
A house begins to crumble in the earthquake which has also destroyed government buildings in the capital

I can hear very distressed people…a lot of distress, people wailing, trying to find loved ones trapped under the rubble,’ said Ian Rodgers, of Save the Children, who is in Port-au-Prince.
‘I couldn't even stand up, that's how bad it was,’ said Valerie Moliere, a 15-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince. ‘There's a lot of people in the street everywhere. Some are wounded.’
‘I just heard that right next to my neighborhood there's this pharmacy and this school that broke down and many people died,’ she added.
‘I don't know how powerful it was. But from what I felt, it was very powerful," said Carole Bastin, another resident. ‘And it lasted quite long because I could not walk, I was trying to leave the house, the building, I could not because everything was shaking around me. All the file cabinets were opening and all the things falling apart.’
In Washington, President Obama pledged to send aid. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added: ‘We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.’
The British government was urgently seeking information about the scale of the catastrophe.
‘We continue to monitor the situation and are urgently seeking information about the devastation caused by the quake and whether any British nationals have been affected,’ said a Foreign Office 
spokeswoman.


Edeline B. Clermont weeps in the 'Little Haiti' area of Miami as she struggles to contact her relatives living in the Caribbean nation
Edeline B. Clermont weeps in the 'Little Haiti' area of Miami as she struggles to contact her relatives living in the Caribbean nation

A man and a woman walk past debris and damaged cars in Port-au-Prince
A man and a woman walk past debris and damaged cars in Port-au-Prince

US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington that US Embassy personnel were ‘literally in the dark’ after power failed.
‘They reported structures down. They reported a lot of walls down. They did see a number of bodies in the street and on the sidewalk that had been hit by debris. So clearly, there's going to be serious loss of life in this,’ he said.
The Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, said at least two Americans working at its Haitian aid mission were believed trapped in rubble.
Alain Le Roy, the UN peacekeeping chief in New York, said late Tuesday that the headquarters of the 9,000-member Haiti peacekeeping mission and other UN installations were seriously damaged.
‘Contacts with the U.N. on the ground have been severely hampered,’  Mr Le Roy said in a statement, adding: ‘For the moment, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for.’
Felix Augustin, Haiti's consul general in New York, said a portion of the National Palace had disintegrated.


Collapsed floors can be seen on a damaged multi-story building in the capital
Collapsed floors can be seen on a damaged multi-story building in the capital

People rush outside to inspect the damage after the huge quake hit
People rush outside to inspect the damage after the huge quake hit

‘Buildings collapsed all over the place,’ he said. ‘We have lives that are destroyed. It will take at least two or three days for people to know what's going on.’
An Associated Press videographer saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, a hillside Port-au-Prince district that is home to many diplomats and wealthy Haitians, as well as many poor people. Elsewhere in the capital, a US government official reported seeing houses that had tumbled into a ravine.
Kenson Calixte of Boston spoke to an uncle and cousin in Port-au-Prince shortly after the earthquake by phone. He could hear screaming in the background as his relatives described the frantic scene in the streets. His uncle told him that a small hotel near their home had collapsed, with people inside.
‘They told me it was total chaos, a lot of devastation,’ he said.
Haiti's ambassador to the US, Raymond Joseph, said from his Washington office that he spoke to President Rene Preval's chief of staff, Fritz Longchamp, just after the quake hit.
He said Mr Longchamp told him that ‘buildings were crumbling right and left’ near the National Palace. The envoy said he had not been able to get back in contact with officials.

Port-au-Prince earthquakePort-au-Prince quake

Death and suffering: Early images out of Port-au-Prince tell a harrowing story

Close call: Survivors count their blessings after the quake struck
Close call: Survivors count their blessings after the quake struck

With phones down, some of the only communication came from social media such as Twitter. Richard Morse, a well-known musician who manages the famed Olafson Hotel, kept up a stream of dispatches on the aftershocks and damage reports.
The news, based mostly on second-hand reports and photos, was disturbing, with people screaming in fear and roads blocked with debris. Belair, a slum even in the best of times, was said to be 'a broken mess.'

NEW BLOW FOR COUNTRY MIRED IN MISERY 
The earthquake that plunged Haiti into darkness is another blow to a nation that has seen more than its share of misery.
Much of Haiti's nine million population is impoverished and the disaster comes after years of political instability.

The country has suffered a number of recent disasters, including hurricanes and storms in 2008.

In November 2008, following the collapse of a school in Petionville, the mayor of Port-au-Prince estimated about 60% of the buildings were shoddily built and unsafe in normal circumstances.

The earthquake yesterday was felt in the Dominican Republic - but no major damage was reported there.
Houses also shook in eastern Cuba but there were also no reports of significant damage.


US Geological Survey geophysicist Kristin Marano called it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in what is now Haiti. In 1946, a magnitude-8.1 quake struck the Dominican Republic and also shook   Haiti, producing a tsunami that killed 1,790 people.
The temblor appeared to have occurred along a strike-slip fault, where one side of a vertical fault slips horizontally past the other, said earthquake expert Tom Jordan at the University of Southern California.
The quake's size and proximity to populated Port-au-Prince likely caused widespread casualties and structural damage, he said.
‘It's going to be a real killer,’ he said. ‘Whenever something like this happens, you just hope for the best.’
Most of Haiti's nine million people are desperately poor, and after years of political instability the country has no real construction standards. In November 2008, following the collapse of a school in 
Petionville, the mayor of Port-au-Prince estimated about 60 percent of the buildings were shoddily built and unsafe in normal circumstances.

Tuesday's quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, and some panicked residents in the capital of Santo Domingo fled from their shaking 
homes. But no major damage was reported there.

In eastern Cuba, houses shook but there were also no reports of significant damage.

Haiti.jpg
The earthquake epicentre was ten miles outside Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital

Disaster: The epicentre of the quake was located inland, 14 miles (22km) west of the capital Port-au-Prince
The epicentre of the quake was located inland, 14 miles (22km) west of the capital Port-au-Prince, pictured on a typical day

The few reports emerging from Haiti made clear the country suffered extensive damage.
‘Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken,’ said Henry Bahn, a US Department of Agriculture official visiting Port-au-Prince. ‘The sky is just gray with dust.’
Mr Bahn said there were rocks strewn about and he saw a ravine where several homes had stood: ‘It's just full of collapsed walls and rubble and barbed wire.’
In the community of Thomassin, just outside Port-au-Prince, Alain Denis said neighbors told him the only road to the capital had been cut and phones were all dead so it was hard to determine the extent of the damage.

Epicentre: The US Geological Survey illustrates the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday
The US Geological Survey illustrates the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday

‘At this point, everything is a rumour,’ he said. ‘It's dark. It's nighttime.’
Jocelyn Valcin, a resident of Boynton Beach, Florida who flew in to Miami International Airport from Port-au-Prince on Tuesday evening, said he was at the airport when the earthquake hit.
‘The whole building was cracked down’ said Mr Valcin. ‘The whole outside deteriorated.’
Former President Bill Clinton, the UN's special envoy for Haiti, issued a statement saying his office would do whatever he could to help the nation recover and rebuild.
‘My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti,’ he said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said his government planned to send a military aircraft carrying canned foods, medicine and drinking water and also would dispatch a team of 50 rescue workers.
Haitian musician Wyclef Jean urged his fans to donate to earthquake relief efforts, saying he had received text messages from his homeland reporting that many people had died. ‘We must think ahead for the aftershock, the people will need food, medicine, shelter, etc.,’ Mr Jean said on his Web site. 

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